Black Mountain — IV (Album Review)

Black Mountain IV

Black Mountain IV

It used to be the bravest place in the music world was a classic rock radio station’s graveyard shift. Not constrained by the need to play the day’s hits, or hawk concert tickets to contest winners, the nighthawks who deejayed these time slots were the last great populist explorers.

Whole sides of Yes records would get played on a whimsy, Johnny Cash and Black Flag might get snuck in next to some “weird German stuff” like Kraftwerk, and 3 a.m. was the best time to open up the phone lines because that’s when you’d get calls from folks who’d just been let out of the bars. Or better yet, maybe a ring from an alien-obsessed insomniac or two.

It’s into this world, this dangerously pulsing outer rim, where Vancouver act Black Mountain have unleashed their obviously titled fourth album, IV.

A hurtling, mind-warping journey, IV investigates some of classic rock music’s most thrilling tropes, all with controls aimed straight towards the cosmos.

The album’s lead off track “Mothers Of The Sun” effectively demonstrates this space racing. A swirling eight-and-a-half-minute trip, the song highlights both Amber Webber’s vocals as well as a device that gets a number of star turns on IV, Jeremy Schmidt’s organ.

Indeed, much in the same way one eventually has that eureka moment where they realize the best parts of Deep Purple don’t revolve around the “Smoke On The Water” riff, but instead on the mood-setting Hammond of “Child In Time,” Schmidt’s playing establishes a kaleidoscopic, headphone-melting foundation for the rest of the band to work around throughout the record.

There are many other deep cut callbacks on IV as well. “Defector” has a deliberate stomp and delivery from Stephen McBean that could easily place the song in the same world as Pink Floyd’s The Wall. Elsewhere, “Line Them All Up” evokes that same melancholy David Bowie displayed on reflective masterpieces like “Five Years” and “Ashes To Ashes.”

That’s not to say IV isn’t without any of the modern riff rock bombast Black Mountain are known for, either. Blasters “Florian Saucer Attack” and “Constellations” inhabit the same new-meets-old places Queens Of The Stone Age explored on Songs For The Deaf.

The result is an album that isn’t just “classic” rock in form, but classic in the sense that it’s fucking righteous. We can only hope for a future world where invisible 4 a.m. airwaves crackle with life to the sound of Black Mountain’s IV.

Leave a comment

Filed under Music

Which Are Better? Cadbury Mini Eggs Or Hershey’s Eggies

Cadbury Mini Eggs and Hershey's Eggies

Cadbury Mini Eggs and Hershey’s Eggies

It’s Easter Sunday and as far as religious holidays honouring zombies go, our favourite part is the chocolate.

Specifically, the many variations of miniature chocolate egg candies we buy in bulk and then crush about a dozen at a time. But what kind to crush?

This year we wanted to resolve a pressing chocolate egg-related debate: Which are better, Cadbury Mini Eggs or Hershey’s Eggies?

So Sarah and I got a bag of each and had ourselves a competitive taste test. Here are the results:

Savor Test

The classic slow melt delayed gratification effect. Sarah and I each took one egg and let it melt in our mouths.

Hershey’s Eggies
S: It tastes like passing grade chocolate and nostalgia. 3/5
A: This was not impactful. 3/5

Cadbury Mini Eggs
S: Even though I swear this was the exact same as the last one it tasted better. 3.5/5
A: This had a slightly metallic start, but had a rich finish. 3.2/5

Cruchability

The bigwigs in Big Candy don’t just engineer their products for taste. They also engineer them for things like texture, mouth feel and even the sonic qualities of the “crunch” when you bite into them. We wrapped all these traits into something we called the “crunchability” score.

Hershey’s Eggies
S: It did the job. I don’t enjoy crunching these so I don’t care. 3/5
A: When you actually pay attention these create a surprisingly loud, pop rock-y sensation in your mouth. 3.3/5

Cadbury Mini Eggs
S: This one was more satisfying. 4/5
A: Nearly identical in feel and volume to the Eggies, this one dissolved on the tongue a little more delicately. 3.2/5

Cluster Smash

Here we jammed three chocolate eggs at a time into our mouths in a freestyle taste test jam.

Hershey’s Eggies
S: I never put more than one in my mouth at a time so this is nonsense. There’s too much in my mouth… this is an empty experience. 2.7/5
A: This was the first time I actually got a “chocolate” taste kick from the Eggies. 3.5/5

Cadbury Mini Eggs
S: These fit in my mouth better. 3.2/5
A: You can detect a nearly caramel tone when you put more in your mouth. Also, you can definitely taste a richer chocolate. 3.5/5

SCORES

Hershey’s Eggies
S: 8.7/15
A: 9.8/15
Total 18.5/30

Cadbury Mini Eggs
S: 10.7/15
A: 9.9/15
Total 20.6/30

And the winner is…

Cadbury Mini Eggs

Cadbury Mini Eggs

 

 

 

 

 

1 Comment

Filed under Food

LIVE: Heart, Joan Jett, The Mandevilles In Toronto

Queens Of Sheeba tour featuring Heart and Joan Jett

Queens Of Sheeba tour featuring Heart and Joan Jett

LIVE: Heart, Joan Jett & The Blackhearts, The Mandevilles
March 20, 2016
Sony Centre For The Performing Arts
Toronto, Ontario

Right about the time when Heart guitarist Nancy Wilson began winding her way through the acoustic intro to the classic rock ultra-hit “Crazy On You” my internal monologue was clicking away at a checklist:

Are Heart better than Aerosmith? Check.
Are Heart better than Lynyrd Skynyrd? Check.
Are Heart better than The Guess Who? Check.
Are Heart better than Fleetwood Mac? Check.
Are Heart better than Van Halen? Hmmm, those Van Halen and 1984 albums are pretty good…

The point is that Heart, the 40+ year running institution fronted by shattering-voiced Ann Wilson and her sister Nancy, aren’t just the biggest, best and most important band among the “women of rock” (a term I find loathsome for its pigeonholing need to classify musical acts not by whether or not they’re awesome at what they do, but by whether or not they have vaginas), they’re among the biggest, best and most important rock bands of all-times. Because, besides a few foundational pillars — The Rolling Stones, The Who, Bruce Springsteen, David Bowie — Heart are virtually unmatched.

Of course, none of this mental gamesmanship really mattered once long-time Heart guitarist Craig Bartock dove into the mind-altering “Crazy On You” riff that has propelled it to decades-long anchorings on classic rock radio station Top 100 song lists.

“Crazy On You” was just one wow moment in a series of wow moments from Heart during the Toronto touchdown of the Queens of Sheeba tour featuring the Wilson sisters and crew, Joan Jett & The Blackhearts and The Mandevilles at the Sony Centre. Kicking off their set with the throwdown of “Magic Man” and “Heartless,” the band quickly shifted gears to the uber-ballad “What About Love.” I used to hate this song when it first came out. At the time I was all about Motley Crue’s Shout At The Devil album and this song’s ubiquity (it made it to #3 on the Canadian Adult Contemporary Chart) and ballad-ness felt like a betrayal to the idealized badass rocker version of Heart my childish self had imagined. Decades later, though, the song’s hallelujah resonance is a lot clearer. There were people in the audience for whom this song was their church: hands up, all a-flutter, connecting with their higher power.

The rest of Heart’s set also had a number of lightning bolt moments. “Barracuda,” with its signature chug, was fist-pumpingly satisfying and the three-song cover set encores of “Immigrant Song,” a lysergic “No Quarter” and “Misty Mountain Hop” were, let’s face, probably the closest any of us with get to hearing these songs played by Led Zeppelin in 2016 or beyond.

Not lost on us this evening was the inclusion of equality-minded 1980 single “Even It Up” to the mid-section of Heart’s set. The song’s specific qualities were perhaps less important than its symbolic ones. This was, after all, a tour named after a biblical queen featuring three female-led rock acts.

Which brings us to the evening’s co-headliner, Joan Jett & The Blackhearts.

Joan Jett

Joan Jett

What Jett may lack in GOAT classic rock cache, she more than makes up for as one of the most iconic figures in rock ‘n’ roll history. Without Jett would riot grrrl have existed? Hole? Liz Phair? The Distillers? Yeah Yeah Yeahs? Maybe, but it’s very easy to imagine Jett as the person who cleared the path for future generations of badasses.

If Heart’s set was a masterclass of crescendoes and cloud-touching epiphanies, Jett’s was a tromp through New York City gutters with a switchblade in hand.

From the first moment of signature opener “Bad Reputation,” Jett had the derby girls and Bovine bartenders on their days off in the audience relentlessly hustling through the aisles in attempts to sneak closer to the stage. They had good reason for magnetically pulling towards the stage.

Jett’s time warps through Runaways hits “Cherry Bomb” and “You Drive Me Wild” were both vivid reminders of her icon status and the fact that she has, quite literally, been rocking out since she was a teenager.

Perhaps the most remarkable trait about Jett, though, is the way in which she’s inhabited other people’s songs over the years and made them her own. I don’t know anyone besides the most contrarian rockist who would choose The Arrows’ take on “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” over Jett’s world-winning version. Likewise, Tommy James & The Shondells’ “Crimson And Clover” will never match the steamy potency Jett brings to her take on the song.

If there were any missteps in Jett’s set they were tonal more than technical. Jett turned horrible-person Gary Glitter’s “Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah)” into a hand-waving glam-rock singalong. As a song and as a moment it was great. Framed culturally, though, performing a song by Glitter, a convicted sexual predator, isn’t dangerous so much as it’s dangerously out of step with expectations we assign to someone as important as Jett. New song “TMI” might be a little too get-off-my-lawn with its condemnation of social media/selfie culture, as well.

Frankly, most of the Sony Centre audience didn’t care. It was, after all, more about loving rock ‘n’ roll than chin-stroking internal debates on the implied endorsement of reprehensible people by covering their songs.

Indeed, if Jett could distill the complexity of the human condition into the four perfect minutes of “I Hate Myself For Loving You” perhaps I’m putting too much thought into it. After all, Jett’s closing cover of Sly & The Family Stone’s “Everyday People” and its message of peace, racial and social equality is probably a much better takeaway from was ultimately a satisfyingly valiant set of rock ‘n’ roll.

Another sort of bravery was on display this night from opening act The Mandevilles. While promoters probably could have gotten anyone they wanted at a certain level to act as curtain jerker for the Sheeba tour, the choice of the Niagara Falls-based Mandevilles had symbolic value. Fronted by Southern Ontario scene veteran Serena Pryne, the inclusion of The Mandevilles was a nod to all the women of rock who are still fighting it out in the clubs. Pryne and her Bonnie Tyler-ian wail had the odds stacked against them, having to play acoustically to a slowly filling theatre, but by relentlessly pushing forward with “Windows And Stones,” the brassy “I Stole Your Band” and a spirited run through The Who’s “The Real Me” they held their own. And if the “hey, that wasn’t bad” proclamations from the cottage rock dads sitting behind me post-set were any indication, The Mandevilles should take their efforts this evening more as success than faint praise.

Leave a comment

Filed under Concerts, Music

Top 10 Jesus Characters In Movies

Jesus

Jesus

Jesus Christ, the guy who Christians are very into, has been in a lot of films.

Sarah teamed up with some colleagues at Consequence Of Sound to figure out which Jesuses in films were the best Jesuses.

To read the full list click here.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Films, Shameless Promotion

Stills And Young Briefly Awaken Crosby And Nash

Crosby, Stills Nash & Young. Photo by Rachel Verbin

Crosby, Stills Nash & Young. Photo by Rachel Verbin

LIVE: Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
July 10, 2006
Air Canada Centre
Toronto, Ontario

Named the “Freedom Of Speech” tour and featuring Neil Young playing most of his anti-Bush album, Living With War, the current Crosby, Stills, Nash And Young jaunt seemed perfectly designed to reharness the counter-culture energy that made CSNY protest heroes almost four decades ago.

The big question, though, was whether would the audience turn on and tune in or drop out. The early odds were even. Sure there were pockets of young rascals and sweet familial pairs (a father with tangled hair and teenage daughter dressed in burlap — how noble it is to keep Greenpeace supplied with volunteers), but the bulk of the audience was comprised of middle to upper-middle class, well-heeled white people. Your dad, wearing a casual golf shirt, was there. So was William, the assistant director and his well-pilatesized second wife, Audrey.

The key factor in all of this is that these people — the comfortable charity gala lefties — were the ones who would really have to dig the messages CSNY were putting out if the show was to have any success. No offense to the dudes up in the cheap seats, but you’re not the fellas that can affect real change. At least not yet.

The show kicked off with Young’s “Flags Of Freedom,” complete with a backdrop of rotating Canadian, British, American and associated allied flags. It was well received, although it’s hard not to rile up a crowd with the cheap pop of flag waving. The remainder of the 13-song first set rotated fairly evenly between Living With War numbers (“The Restless Consumer,” “Shock And Awe,” “After The Garden”) and tracks from CSNY’s various permutations (“Wooden Ships,” “Military Madness,” “Immigration Man”). Tom Bray’s trumpet work on Young songs, and throughout the evening, added a consistently solid punch, but the rants against Bush (David Crosby referred to him as a “chimpanzee” at one point) and song-form shots at bureaucracy and consumerism seemed to fall on relatively disinterested, if not deaf, ears.

The 20-minute intermission before the second set allowed CSNY to recharge. The piano double shot of the Graham Nash-featured “Our House” and Young’s “Only Love Can Break Your Heart” roused the crowd with some much-needed hit power. Sure, they’re love songs, not rebel songs, but they at least got the crowd moving.

The rise in temperature in the audience also buoyed Stephen Stills’ romancing-the-crime song, “Treetop Flyer.” With snap-of-finger suddenness, it brought the wobbling Stills to life. Until then, it had been mostly Young showing any spikes of emotion, but now half of CSNY seemed dialed in.

Stills’ next move, “Southern Cross,” brought the full band, four astride (no wandering by Nash and no rooted disinterest from Crosby), to full attention. From here on out, the quartet rolled out the protest that they had flirted with aggressively all night. “For What It’s Worth” was awkward, but Young’s blunt “Let’s Impeach The President,” complete with a video monitor that flashed mugshots of dead soldiers, brought it all back home. The payoff that would follow was a truly fiery “Ohio.”

It may have taken CSNY ’til the two-and-a-half-hour mark, but there it was. That combustible hippie righteousness had finally flickered, fanned and burst. The crowd, tepid for much of the night, was singing, clapping and in some pockets, downright flailing (eighth row, centre, floors — dude, I saw that usher trying to bum your trip all night).

I must say, even my jaded rock critic soul experienced suspension of disbelief when the band then hurdled into “Rockin’ In The Free World.” That five minutes of sloganeering was followed by a brusk run through “Woodstock” and then it was done. In the end, there were about 20 minutes total in the nearly three-hour set where pure, unadulterated fight-the-power-ness actually broke through to the crowd. In the mathematics of rebellion, Toronto ultimately had little screw-the-man vigor in its heart.

It wasn’t a complete loss, though. There’s a causeway that connects the ACC to Union Station that features an array of fancy display automobiles. Walking past them after the show, I noticed someone had besmirched one of the SUVs with a Greenpeace bumper sticker. It was surely the work of one of those burlap-wearing teenage girls and not one of the Eddie Bauer golf dads, but it was at least something. Perhaps it’s really about the small victories. If that’s the case, consider Toronto a win.

This story was originally published July 11, 2006 via Chart Communications.

Leave a comment

Filed under Concerts, Music

Miesha Tate Gets Knocked Down, Gets Back Up Again

Miesha Tate

Miesha Tate

Miesha Tate’s journey to becoming the UFC women’s bantamweight champion has been a difficult one.

Sarah explained this difficultly via a Chumbawumba-referencing headline in a story for Fightland.

To read it click here.

Leave a comment

Filed under Jock Stuff, Shameless Promotion

10 Cloverfield Lane And The Value Of Secrecy

10 Cloverfield Lane

10 Cloverfield Lane

New film 10 Cloverfield Lane did something almost unheard of in the era of modern mainstream film making — they kept most of the important details about the film a secret.

By engineering a spoiler-free experience the film represents a bold new way to build intrigue.

But is this actually a good thing?

Sarah tried to answer this question in a piece for Consequence of Sound.

To read it click here.

Leave a comment

Filed under Films, Shameless Promotion